- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2013

CHARLOTTESVILLE – The Commonwealth Cup is renewing its driver’s license for a second time in Blacksburg and there are fourth graders who have no idea Virginia and Virginia Tech are rivals.

In the aftermath of the Hokies’ 10th consecutive win in a series that dates back to the 19th century, the Cavaliers were grasping at straws to explain how the rivalry has become so lopsided.

Of more importance, Virginia must look itself in the mirror and answer why it ended 2013 with a nine-game losing streak.

“We have to address the things that cause us to lose games,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “Players need to understand their position isn’t guaranteed next year. Coaches look at systems and schemes. We need to hold our head up and look straight ahead and forward. We need to make those corrections.”

The players are under fire because the coaching staff cannot be touched in a realistic manner. After last season’s 4-8 flop, London cleaned house where he could and did so with the knowledge he is somewhat sheltered by a massive buyout clause in his contract.

London (18-31) now sports the second-worst record by winning percentage (.367) in school history among coaches with at least four years at the helm. The near-historic lack of success likely will not be enough for the embattled Virginia administration to pony up the $8.1 million buyout for him and the additional $3.1 million necessary to buy out his staff.

While London is looking for “corrections” he needs to make among his current roster, he will need to pick up the pace on the recruiting trail, which brings Saturday’s loss full circle.

By failing to beat the in-state rival for a fourth consecutive season, London is feeling the effects in living rooms across the state and nation. To date, Virginia Tech has 23 commitments to Virginia’s 12. According to Rivals.com, the Hokies outnumber Virginia in four-star recruits, four to one.

The disparity in quality and quantity has Virginia Tech ranked 20th nationally and fifth in the ACC while Virginia checks in at 43rd overall and 10th in the conference.

This year’s rivalry game presented as good an opportunity to knock off the Hokies as any. On Saturday, Virginia Tech’s offense was inconsistent and reliant on risky play-calling while the Cavaliers’ maligned defensive unit was playing as well as it had at any point of the season.

But in front of the smallest crowd (52,069) to witness a rivalry game since Scott Stadium expanded in 2000, the Cavaliers failed to score on any of their final 10 possessions and will have to live with the fact a kid who looked like a pre-spinach Popeye was the instrument of their doom.

At 5-11 and 165 pounds, walk-on kicker Eric Kristensen provided all the offense Virginia Tech would need by booting three short field goals. Hokies coach Frank Beamer admitted he didn’t even know the freshman’s name until a few weeks ago.

“I just called him ‘Michigan’ for the longest time,” Beamer said with a laugh. “You kind of look at him and say, ‘what the heck is this, I’m going to send you out there to win this thing for me?’”

He did and he did. Now, free-falling Virginia will spend a long, cold offseason hoping 2-10 is rock bottom.

“It was tough,” said junior Cavaliers tight end Jake McGee. “We went 2-10 and lost however many in a row. It was just tough. I don’t really have a lot of answers for it. We will have to dig deep and look into things to see what we need to do to change it, because 2-10 is not going to cut it.”

Sophomore defensive end Eli Harold said it will be an offseason of urgency.

“I will now attack everything like it’s the last day of my life,” he said. “I have to try to lead the best I can and get everyone in the same mindset so we can turn this around and reach our goal of an ACC championship.”

Meanwhile Virginia Tech will await its bowl destination, content with its 8-4 campaign and basking in the glow of unparalleled success against its rival. The 10 consecutive wins is the most in the series by either team and comes as part of a dominant stretch where Virginia Tech has won 14 of the past 15 meetings.

“It means a lot. They’re the in-state rival. I’m not sure it will ever be done again,” Beamer said. “We’ve been fortunate here. We always play well and we’ve had some good players here. We’ve been fortunate but I’m not sure that will ever happen again.”

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